A few years ago I published some coach rankings that basically broke down NCAA tournament wins based on how they were earned: in recruiting, in the regular season by earning a high NCAA seed, and by exceeding seed expectations in the post-season. I still think NCAA tournament wins are the right way to measure coaching success. (And if you look at new hires, NCAA wins are a pretty good predictor of who will get a better job.) But I also feel like the PASE (Performance Against Seed Expectations) concept has been hammered home pretty heavily at this point. If you’ve never seen it, there is some similar discussion in this year’s Basketball Prospectus Book.
This year, I’d like to cover some different ground, but I haven’t been able to find a large chunk of time to do a full analysis. Instead I’m going to start posting some piecemeal facts, starting with a few columns this week.
Can a Big South Coach ever get a BCS gig?
One question that’s been in my head is the progress of Gregg Marshall. I still consider his story the pinnacle of coaching success. He took Winthrop, a Big South school, to the NCAA tournament seven out of nine years. And in his final season he earned an at-large level 11-seed and knocked off Notre Dame. To me, this type of success story should have been met by a job offer to a BCS school. But instead it simply earned Gregg Marshall a shot at the next rung in the ladder. Marshall earned a job at the MVC’s Wichita St. Now after a disappointing couple of seasons, Marshall finally has his team in the hunt for the league championship. Wichita St. is in 2nd place in the Valley and holds a win over first place Northern Iowa.
Marshall earned his job in part because of a chain reaction that sent Billy Gillispie to Kentucky. Gillispie turned a dreadful UTEP team around from 6-24 to 24-8 in two seasons and earned an NCAA bid. Then he quickly moved Texas A&M from an NIT team to a Sweet Sixteen team in three short years. And after five short years, Gillispie was given the head coaching position at Kentucky. As we all know, things didn’t work out so well.
So maybe my fascination with Gregg Marshall is overblown. Coaches need time at each level to develop their craft. And a school like Kentucky needs a coach who can handle more than X’s and O’s. Kentucky needs a coach that can recruit elite talent. Kentucky needs a coach that is media savvy. Could Gregg Marshall have left Winthrop and immediately handled the pressure at a school like Arkansas? Who knows? But the idea that coaches need to spend time at different levels has merit.
But can a small school coach ever get to a big school job? I looked at the 73 active BCS coaches (plugging Tracy Webster in at DePaul for Jerry Wainwright) from 1984-2009. And only one spent any time at a current Big South school. That was Oliver Purnell who is famous for engineering a turnaround at Radford.
Here’s a full breakdown of the former head coaching and assistant coaching jobs held by active BCS coaches during the 64-team era, from 1984-2009:
Atlantic 10 (10): Sean Miller, Travis Ford, Oliver Purnell, Thad Matta, Dino Gaudio, John Beilein, Lorenzo Romar, Al Skinner, John Calipari, Paul Hewitt
MWC (5): Jeff Bzdelik, Buzz Williams, Jay Wright, Ernie Kent, Trent Johnson
MVC (7): Keno Davis, Mark Turgeon, Greg McDermott, Matt Painter, Bruce Weber, Kevin Stallings, Thad Matta
WAC (3): Mark Fox, Trent Johnson, Jamie Dixon
CUSA (12): John Calipari, Doc Sadler, Mike Anderson, Andy Kennedy, Bill Self, Norm Roberts, Billy Donovan, John Pelphrey, Anthony Grant, Trent Johnson, Tubby Smith, Kevin O’Neill
Colonial (11): Anthony Grant, Jeff Capel III, Frank Martin, Jay Wright, Mike Brey, Oliver Purnell, Frank Haith, Rick Barnes, Kevin O’Neill, Tubby Smith, Jim Calhoun
Horizon (5): Todd Lickliter, Bruce Pearl, Scott Drew, Thad Matta, Bo Ryan
WCC (2): Lorenzo Romar, Ernie Kent
MAAC (5): Bobby Gonzalez, Dino Gaudio, Paul Hewitt, John Beilein, Fred Hill
MAC (7): Tracy Webster, Stan Heath, Todd Lickliter, Thad Matta, Herb Sendek, Bob Huggins
Big Sky (4): Ken Bone, Ben Howland, Jamie Dixon, Mike Montgomery
Southern (3): Jeff Lebo, Thad Matta, Frank Haith
Ivy (3): Craig Robinson, John Thompson III, Bill Carmody,
Big West (3) Seth Greenberg, Ben Howland, Jamie Dixon
OVC (8): Mick Cronin, Travis Ford, Keno Davis, Jeff Lebo, Mark Turgeon, Darrin Horn, Matt Painter, Rick Stansbury
Sun Belt (5): Darrin Horn, Buzz Williams, John Pelphrey, Andy Kennedy, Tom Crean
Summit (3): Gregg McDermott, Bill Self, Norm Roberts
Atlantic Sun (3): Ed DeChellis, Anthony Grant, Jeff Lebo
Big South (1): Oliver Purnell
American East (3): Fred Hill, Jeff Bzdelik, Bobby Gonzalez
Southland (2): Buzz Williams, Doc Sadler
Patriot (1): Dino Gaudio
Northeast (1): Fred Hill
GWC (2): Gregg McDermott, Doc Sadler
I suppose technically Billy Donovan shouldn’t be a former CUSA coach since Marshall wasn’t in CUSA from 1994-1996, but for simplicity I’m listing the past schools in their current conference. I list the conferences in order of 2010 RPI as of Friday, January 22nd. I should have probably listed Division II positions, but it didn’t occur to me when I was looking at bios.
A few things stand out:
-If you want a BCS coaching gig, you are better off being an assistant at a major school than taking a low level Division 1 job. None of the current BCS coaches ever coached in the MEAC or SWAC, and a rare few have worked their way up from the bottom leagues.
-You really have to pull for guys like Buzz Williams, Doc Sadler, and Fred Hill who have worked just about everywhere to reach where they are today.
-The Conference USA jobs don’t seem as attractive as they once did, but CUSA and the Colonial League are still good places to prove yourself. Basically, if I was a coach at a school like Villanova, I would have a clear recommendation for my assistants. If you can get a Colonial job or better, take it. But if your head coaching offers are worse than that, you’ll face a long road to the big time.
-The OVC has had a shocking number of BCS coaches come out of its schools. Maybe the teams have just been in the sweet spot. A good OVC team can pull an NCAA tournament upset.
-Realistically, it is just as much about who you know as what you’ve done. For example, Trent Johnson was an assistant under Mike Montgomery and impressed the Stanford Athletic Director. Then when Montgomery went to the NBA, Johnson got the call and became head coach at Stanford. In a future post, I hope to tackle the topic of coaching trees and those little connections that get coaches jobs. I.e., I’ll tell you how you can connect the dots from Matt Painter to Scott Drew by going through Bill Self. (And it is a crazy path.)
I don’t know how far I’m going to get on this coaching project, but here are some numbers that should give you some ideas of what I want to do:
2003-2004 through 2009-2010.
Offense - School
121.1 North Carolina
116.4 Michigan St.
116.3 Notre Dame
Defense - School
89.5 North Carolina
Fast Facts 2
Obsessed fans know that William & Mary’s offense has taken an incredible jump forward this year. Did you know: William & Mary is on pace for the greatest increase in adjusted offensive efficiency on record. (As of Friday, W&M’s adjusted offensive rating is 21.8 points higher than last year.)
The previous biggest increase belonged to Idaho St. whose adjusted offense improved by 17.6 points between the 2004-05 season and the 2005-2006 season. Loyola Marymount is also on pace to break the record this year with an 18.3 point jump in offensive efficiency.